In the Hebrew original, is the word “earth” used in Genesis 1:1 the same as “earth” in Genesis 1:10? | Gleason L. Archer

In the Hebrew original, is the word “earth” used in Genesis 1:1 the same as “earth” in Genesis 1:10? 

In the Hebrew original, is the word “earth” used in Genesis 1:1 the same as “earth” in Genesis 1:10? | Gleason L. Archer
In the Hebrew original, is the word “earth” used in Genesis 1:1 the same as “earth” in Genesis 1:10? | Gleason L. Archer

Yes, the word is ʾereṣ in both cases. Whether it refers to earth in general or to a more restricted area is something to be determined from context—as is true with many of our English words. For example, John 3:16 uses “world” (Gr. kosmos) in the sense of all the human race, as objects of God’s concern and redeeming love; but in 1 John 2:15 (“Love not the world”) “world” is used in the sense of the organized system of rebellion, self-seeking and enmity toward God, which characterizes the human race in opposition to God.

So also ʾereṣ may be used in the sense of the entire planet Earth in contrast to the heavens (Gen. 1:1). Or it may be the dry land in contrast to the oceans and seas (Gen 1:10). Or it may mean one particular country or geographical-political division, such as “the land of Israel” (2 Kings 5:2) or “the land of Egypt” (Exod 20:2). In Genesis 2:5–9, ʾereṣ refers to the area of Eden, where God prepared a perfect setting for Adam and Eve to dwell. In almost every case the context will lead us to the correct sense in which the word is meant by the author.

While it is reasonable to assume that God’s creation referred to in Genesis 1:1 was “perfect,” this fact is not actually so stated until after v.10 After the separation of water from dry land, it is mentioned that this work of creation was “good” (Heb. 2̣tóḇ, not the Hebrew word for “perfect,” tāmím, which does not occur until Gen. 6:9, where it refers to the “blamelessness” of Noah). The “goodness” of God’s creative work is mentioned again in Genesis 1:12, 18, 21, 25, and Genesis 1:31 (the last of which states, “And God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,” NASB). In the light of these citations, it would be difficult to maintain that God’s creative work in Genesis 1:2 and thereafter was not really “good”; on the other hand, nowhere is it actually affirmed that it was “perfect”—though the term ṭóḇ may well have implied perfection.

As for the reference to the earth’s being “waste and void” (Heb. ṯōhú wāḇōhú) in Genesis 1:2, it is not altogether clear whether this was a subsequent and resultant condition after a primeval catastrophe, as some scholars understand it (interpreting the verb hāyeṯāh as “became” rather than “was”). It may simply have been that Genesis 1:1 serves as an introduction to the six-stage work of creation that is about to be described in the rest of chapter 1. In that case there is no intervening catastrophe to be accounted for; and the six creative days are to be understood as setting forth the orderly progressive stages in which God first completed his work of creating the planet Earth as we know it today.

Those who construe hāyeṯāh (“was”) as “became” (a meaning more usually associated with this verb when it is followed by the preposition le occurring before the thing or condition into which the subject is turned) understand this to indicate a primeval catastrophe possibly associated with the rebellion of Satan against God, as suggested by Isaiah 14:10–14. That passage seems to imply that behind the arrogant defiance of the king of Babylon against the Lord there stands as his inspiration and support the prince of hell himself, who once said in his heart, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14); this language would hardly have proceeded from the lips of any mortal king).

In 2 Peter 2:4 we read that “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.” Those who espouse this interpretation suggest that a major disaster overtook the created heaven and earth mentioned in Genesis 1:1, as a result of which the earth needed to be restored—perhaps even recreated—in the six creative days detailed in the rest of Genesis 1.

It must be understood, however, that there is no explicit statement anywhere in Scripture that the primeval fall of Satan was accompanied by a total ruin of earth itself; it is simply an inference or conjecture, which may seem persuasive to some Bible students but be somewhat unconvincing to others. This, in brief, is the basis for the catastrophe theory.




[1]Archer, G. L. (1982). New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Originally published: Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties. 1982. Zondervan’s Understand the Bible Reference Series (65). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.